Thursday, June 28, 2007

Feed Sophie!

This is the latest pix of me at the vet. Mom and dad brought me to the vet because I had rashes. I have been taking medicine that made me sleepy. :-(

Anyway, dad has started a donation drive (you can see the donation button on the top right hand corner of this blog) to help give me enough sustenance to continue writing for this blog. He doesn't think it will raise much as netizens generally want information, news or analysis, for free. But he's hopeful there will be some kindred souls who will contribute financially to this blog. Please feel free to donate whatever amount if you like what you read here.

Hopefully, there will be enough money to buy me dog cookies or bring me to the vet.

After all, it's not easy maintaining a blog. It's a dog's life!!! :-)
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Images of Beijing, part 4

Uncle Fatso has sent some lovely pix of Beijing. It's a montage of old Beijing such as the cave-like gate of the famous Tiananmen square, a former brothel with red lanterns, and street fare such as orange-colour fried starfish and skewered fried crab.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Malaysian crime story

The Malaysian government has finally woken up from its slumber in the fight against crimes in the southern state of Johor following a public outcry.

According to New Straits Times and The Star today, the cabinet has decided to deploy an additional 400 policemen and 200 more police patrol cars in the state “as soon as possible”. The government has also agreed to police recommendations to set up three new police districts in Johor Baru. Malaysia will deploy 300 police personnel from the General Operations Force and another 100 from the Federal Reserve Unit (Generic pix of riot police from Wikipedia) to patrol the streets of JB over the “next few days”.

Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak said the public should continue to have confidence in the police force. "We are taking immediate action to bring down the crime rate in Johor," he reportedly said.

Will this be enough? Obviously not. In the same papers today, one can read about the brutal rapes of two young girls in JB, and the sensational murder case in Kuala Lumpur of the Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu who was killed by a trigger-happy person or persons and then blown to pieces by special army explosives.

It’s good to deploy the no-nonsense riot police under the Federal Reserve Unit but the overall battle plans are just too incremental considering the gravity of the crime situation in JB and KL.

Malaysia must have a long-term action plan against criminals in the country.

First, Malaysia must clean up its own police force. There have been way too many accounts of bribery and trigger-happy policemen in the country. Care must be taken to ensure that policemen do not go overboard in the next few days to prove a point.

Second, it’s time to be more radical and embark on a major blitz against criminals who obviously feel quite at home in JB and KL. This means tackling crimes at the street level and tackling the root causes in crime-infested areas. This could mean installing cameras (with real-time monitoring by real policemen who don’t sleep on the job) in crime-prone areas. And this could also involve move to deport foreigners or banish citizens who engage in criminal activities like pirated VCDs, drugs and prostitution. The laundry list is quite long.

Third, go after the crime warlords. Banish them forever or engineer moles to expose their big brothers (adapted from Infernal Affairs). It’s quite pointless to wipe out the runners if certain quarters in security forces continue to plan “raids” together with warlords.

Without a long-term concerted effort, the warlords and their soldiers will simply take a break and go into a slumber in the next few days, and resurface when the latest police operation is over.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Singapore fugitives in JB, part 2

There's been another case of crime in Johor Baru with a Singapore connection.

According to The Star on Monday, a man, who has been on the wanted list in Singapore for 20 years, and two others have been detained in connection with the kidnapping of a businessman’s son in JB.

The report said the three men, in their 20s to 40s, were arrested in a series of raids around the city soon after the 23-year-old victim was released after a ransom of RM600,000 was paid recently. The suspects initially asked for a RM1 million ransom.

The report didn't make it clear whether the mastermind of the plot is a Singaporean, although it said he's a hardcore criminal wanted in Singapore for committing several armed robberies.

This is not the first case of cross-border crime in JB. According to an earlier posting, there were many other fugitives in Singapore who had fled to neighbouring Malaysia such as Singaporean one-eyed dragon Tan Chor Jin and Malaysian Took Leng How in the Huang Na case. They were eventually tracked down by police in the two countries and brought to justice in Singapore.

But the latest kidnapping case in JB is probably eclipsed by the beginning of the sensational case in Kuala Lumpur -- the murder of Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu (pix from Guang Ming daily via ST).

The Malaysia press have been working overtime to report the case. Please see The Star, which has posted plenty of pix and video clips of the trial.

Defence analyst Abdul Razak Baginda and two other special action force policemen have been accused of the gruesome murder -- she was shot twice in the head before she was blown to bits by C4 explosives. Razak Baginda has acknowledged having an eight-month extramarital affair with Shaariibuu from late 2004.

Many reports have also said that Razak Baginda is a close associate of Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak, who has vehemently denied any involvement in the case.

The Mongolian model case will definitely continue to hog the headlines.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Images of Beijing, part 3

Uncle Fatso has taken some contrasting pix of the old and the new during his train ride to Beijing. You can see old houses and new apartments, old train and new train system. Of course, some things remain unchanged -- the railway tracks.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Updated: UnSmart flood

Sigh, another flash flood happened in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, which is aptly known as muddy estuary in Malay. Dad has lost track the number of times KL has been submerged in muddy water, as shown in the pix today from The Star photo gallery.

Mom was caught in a massive traffic jam due to a flash flood last week in the heart of KL, while grandma's car was once submerged in water near Shah Alam more than five years ago.

The immediate thing that came to dad's mind is the RM1.93 billion project known as Smart (Stormwater Management and Road Tunnel). Has the stormwater tunnel come into effect to help divert flood water in the Malaysian capital? According to project developers MMC-Gamuda, the three-tier tunnel will act as a motorway and a bypass channel for floodwater at the confluence of the Klang and Ampang rivers into a storage reservoir in Taman Desa, before being discharged into Kerayong river.

The Star and New Straits Times didn't mention the Smart project although the 3-km motorway portion opened to the public last month. According to MMC-Gamuda, the final phase of the Smart project will be the official opening of the 9.7-km stormwater tunnel targeted in June 2007 (It's already June 11).

Dad used a stretch of the tunnel when he was driving back from KL back to Singapore last week. He even made a U-turn when he first overshot the tunnel entrance so that he could experience it for the first time. The one-month trial run was still free when dad used it.

Dad now has a lingering feeling that the priority seems to be the opening of the tolled motorway, instead of completing the stormwater tunnel as soon as possible to help drain perennial flood water from the muddy estuary.

Update: The Malaysian government is upset over the tardiness in the completion of the stormwater tunnel portion of the project. But it doesn't change dad's view that the developers seem to be more concerned about the opening of the tolled motorway, instead of completing the stormwater tunnel as soon as possible.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Durian diplomacy, part 2

The Straits Times' Janadas Devan has a column on "durian diplomacy" today, touching on the thorny side of the term -- nearly one month after Sophie talked about the thorns in the new-found diplomacy between Singapore and Malaysia.

Nevertheless, his column is quite interesting as the senior writer is always colourful in his writing although dad doesn't always agree with him. For example, he wrote:

The controversy was a reminder that Singapore-Malaysia relations can never be a simple matter of getting straight to the fruits. The fruits doubtless exist, but the thorns are always getting in the way, and the odour of history never fails to insinuate its way into even the most positive moments. Datuk Seri Abdullah may well have, unintentionally, chosen the perfect image for the relationship.

Janadas also analysed the origin of the word diplomacy and touched on other forms of diplomacy -- golf diplomacy, ping-pong diplomacy and shuttle diplomacy.

But neither Janadas nor Sophie described the durian diplomacy as prickly in bilateral terms. :-)

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Singapore fugitives in JB

Many Singaporeans like to complain about the crime situation in Malaysia, especially in the border city of Johor Baru. Yes, it's true that JB is literally a cowboy town due to the high crime rate. This is probably due to the high number of transient workers and residents in the city as noted in a previous post.

However, not all crimes in the city are committed by Malaysians. This is shown in the latest judgement against a Singaporean. Lim Tiong Seng (left in the ST pix) and a Malaysian accomplice were sentenced to death by the Johor Baru High Court for an armed robbery bid in JB in 2001, according to reports this week.

It's not been easy for the Malaysian enforcement agencies to cope with surging crimes in JB or in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur. It doesn't help when some Malaysian policemen aren't exactly morally upright.

It's also not easy for the immigration departments on both sides of the causeway to prevent fugitives in Singapore from fleeing to JB. This is shown in the case of former National Kidney Foundation ex-chairman Richard Yong, who reportedly fled to JB recently to avoid payment of the estimated $11 million judgment against him. According to ST, Yong was able to leave Singapore because officials of the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority were not told about his bankrupt status until hours after he had passed through the Woodlands checkpoint.

Yong is not the first one to have fled from Singapore to JB and he won't be the last one. There were many other fugitives in Singapore who had fled to neighbouring Malaysia such as Singaporean one-eyed dragon Tan Chor Jin and Malaysian Took Leng How in the Huang Na case. They were eventually tracked down by police in the two countries and brought to justice in Singapore.

Regardless of the nationalities of criminals in Malaysia, Singapore and Malaysia must work even more closely to help bring their criminals and fugitives to justice and make life safer for citizens on both sides of the causeway.

Images of Beijing, part 2

Uncle Fatso has sent more pix of Beijing, taking a great deal of risk in one of them. He took the pix of an illegal poker game in the back lane of Beijing quite discreetly, mindful of being beaten up should he be discovered. He set his camera to B&W and whizzed past before anyone could notice him. He was sweating profusely but was glad of the outcome of the photo.

The pix of the vegetable seller was relatively easier as he gave a broad smile when Uncle Fatso took photos of his children. All the pictures were taken in black and white to give a real and grainy sense of Beijing, which is currently experiencing hot, dry and hazy weather conditions.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Double happiness

There is now another similarity between the political leadership of Singapore and Malaysia although the two countries split long time ago in 1965. Their current Prime Ministers, who assumed power after the turn of the millennium, have both remarried following the death of their first wives.

Singapore's Lee Hsien Loong, who succeeded Goh Chok Tong in 2004, married Ho Ching in 1985 following the death of his first wife. Malaysia's Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who took over from Dr Mahathir Mohamad in 2003, and Jeanne Abdullah will hold their wedding ceremony this Saturday following the death of his wife two years ago.

While Hsien Loong's second marriage is old news, Badawi's badly kept secret has continued to hog the headlines. The Malaysian leader was cited today as saying: 'A happier PM can do a lot of good work.'

Can Badawi now do a lot of good work by resolving all the outstanding bilateral problems with Singapore?

The leaders of the two countries met on the Malaysian island of Langkawi last month as part of what was dubbed "durian diplomacy". There's been a lot of positive rhetoric on both sides of the causeway since then.

But there's been no concrete sign of a new political bridge to link the two countries that used to be one nation.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Updated: New Malaysian First Lady, Part 3

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has finally announced his impending marriage to his sister-in-law, Jean Danker (pix taken from Screenshots), after having dismissed it as rumours earlier. This was announced by the Prime Minister's Office itself.

The news stunned some readers but it didn't come as a surprise to Sophie although she wasn't the first to write about the development in February. One of the first originators of the information was Malaysia Today, which was subsequently picked up by Sophie and others.

According to various blogs, Jean Danker was married to Osman Mahmud, who was Endon Mahmood's brother. Endon was Badawi's late wife who died less than two years ago in October 2005. But it's not known when the courtship between Badawi and Jean started. It also sounds odd for a man to marry his sister-in-law although there is no blood relation.

The Malaysian blogosphere is now abuzz with analysis of the news. Please see Malaysiakini, Rocky's Bru, and Screenshots.

Sophie has also enjoyed the spillover effect, attracting a record number of visitors today with more than 2,700 hits (Final tally: 2,888 visitors). This is way above her daily average of less than 150 visitors per day.

Update: multidimid has compiled some pix and TV video clip of the news in the public domain, but Sophie is still hoping to see a video clip of the closed-door event itself. Sophie will like to see who's there and more importantly, who isn't.

Monday, June 04, 2007


What an anti-climax (er, no pun intended) in the Mongolian model murder trial. The Altantuya Shaariibuu murder case, which was brought forward to today from next year due to intense public interest, has been postponed to June 18 due to the large number of prosecution witnesses.

According to Bernama report on NST today, Justice Datuk Mohd Zaki Md Yassin fixed the date after allowing a postponement sought by deputy public prosecutor Tun Abdul Majid Tun Hamzah who had just taken over the case. The judge also rejected an application for bail for political analyst Razak Baginda (pix from Susan Loone), who is charged with abetting two policemen in committing the sensational murder.

Malaysian blogosphere and the political scene has been abuzz over the last-minute court decision. See Susan Loone, Rocky's Bru, and bigdogdotcom.

The trial must start as soon as possible to prevent any further undue speculation that could prejudice the court of public opinion.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Images of Beijing

Uncle Fatso has finally made his way to Beijing and sent some pictures of Tiananmen Square. Sophie looks forward to Uncle Fatso's snapshot of Beijing.

For instance, is Starbucks still at the Forbidden City? Who will take over the ubiquitous coffee chain's prime spot? What do Beijing residents do during the day and at night for leisure? Are there many rich people in Beijing? Any obvious pictures to show their conspicuous consumption? Are there many poor people in Beijing? How do they cope with the new wealth surrounding them?

Sophie shall wait for Uncle Fatso's next batch of China images. :-)

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Updated: Missing word

Some readers have stumbled onto Sophie's World when they google former Singapore Telecommunications CEO Lee Hsien Yang and the word divorce, and found unrelated postings by Sophie instead.

Well, I have not written about the personal life of the son of former Singapore premier Lee Kuan Yew because I don't know much about his private life.

But I did notice a pix of him and Suet Fern in The Business Times on May 30. The caption of the BT pix -- Award co-hosts: Former SingTel chief executive Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Suet Fern, senior director of Stamford Law Corporation, the co-hosts of the Best Managed Board Award, at the Singapore Corporate Awards ceremony last night.

There was only one word missing in the caption -- wife!

Update: BT subsequently published another pix of Hsien Yang and Suet Fern on June 7 as part of a bigger spread of pix for the event. This time, BT has included the word 'wife' in the caption -- Former president and CEO of SingTel Mr Lee Hsien Yang and his wife, Mrs Lee Suet Fern, managing partner of Stamford Law Corporation.

There was also another mention of Hsien Yang and his wife in a paragraph -- Former SingTel CEO Lee Hsien Yang took a self-deprecating jab at himself when he told his wife, Stamford Law Corporation's Lee Suet Fern, that he couldn't be expected to have the pizazz of an Academy Awards presenter because he didn't have a TV at home to watch the Awards on.

I guess all is still well in the Lee clan.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Same old story

The same old story happened when mom and dad drove from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur yesterday. As expected, he was stopped by a traffic police along the North-South highway, this time in the state of Malacca around 4:45pm yesterday. He clocked around 126 km per hour -- above the speed limit of 110 km per hour, according to the young policeman.

As usual, dad didn't dispute the offence. Guilty as charged! But he happily played along with the cop as dad knew he wanted a bribe.

Dad is an old hand in this, as he has done this many, many times on the Malaysian highway and ended up without any speeding ticket. How? Please see earlier posting on the way to avoid booking by the police on the Malaysian highway. It has worked for dad since 1998!

More importantly, how can dad have faith in the enforcement agency when the police are not above board? Can they fight rampant and rising crimes in the country effectively if they are not morally upright? Are more Malaysian policemen resorting to bribes to cope with the rising cost of living in the country?

Rising cost of crime

It dawned on mom and dad some time ago that the spate of crimes in Malaysia is probably due to one key factor -- the fast rising cost of living in the country.

Many goods in the Malaysian capital, which saw a mind-boggling 40 per cent jump in crime rates in the first three months of this year, appear to have gone up quite substantially in the last one year. Dad noticed that prices started creeping up quite rapidly after the Malaysian government cut state subsidies drastically last year to help cope with the big jump in global oil prices.

The removal of the oil subsidies resulted in an overnight jump in retail pump prices to about RM1.90 from about RM1.60 per litre. Dad believes many businessmen and even traders at pasar malams (night markets) have marked up their price tags, citing higher transportation costs owing to higher petrol prices. Some increases could well be justified. Others simply smacked of profiteering.

Mom noticed tonight that many retail items are now priced higher in Kuala Lumpur than those in more developed Singapore. For instance, she noticed a pendant being priced at RM119 at a shop in the second wing of One Utama shopping centre on the outskirts of KL. She reckons the same item is priced at less than S$35 in Singapore or about RM89 based on the current exchange rate ($S1 = RM2.22). Dad noticed a linen shirt at Island Shop being priced almost the same as that back home in Singapore.

Cost of many items has gone up although the Malaysian currency has strengthened considerably in the last two years since the 7-year-old peg broke in July 2005. The ringgit has strengthened to RM3.40 against the US dollar from RM3.80 per USD -- an appreciation of over 10 per cent.

But the stronger ringgit doesn't seem to have a major impact in capping prices of many goods in the country. Malaysia imports quite a big chunk of intermediate and final goods.

Hence, it won't come as a surprise if more people in the country -- both Malaysians and foreign workers -- find it increasingly difficult to cope with the rising cost of living and resort to criminal activities.